Roller derby enthusiasts flock to city

Some Red Deer area women don fishnet hose and helmets for the sake of fast-paced fun.

Getcha Kicks of the Black Roller Derby Association Rookie Team knocks Red Deer Belladonnas’ player Bear down Saturday.

Getcha Kicks of the Black Roller Derby Association Rookie Team knocks Red Deer Belladonnas’ player Bear down Saturday.

Some Red Deer area women don fishnet hose and helmets for the sake of fast-paced fun.

After they’ve finished their daily routines, they’re off to practise a new contact sport in the community.

Michelle Skorjanc, 38, is among 28 women who make up the Red Deer Belladonnas roller derby team. She’s excited to be a part of a group she can help build.

And the wife and mother is having a blast on the oval track.

“I grew up playing hockey and I liked being a part of a team,” Skorjanc said. “I wanted to get active with a team again.”

April Reynolds, 31, of Red Deer had never rollerskated before, but that didn’t stop her.

“We tell a lot of girls it’s not hard to learn,” said Reynolds.

They love the camaraderie, the fitness, plus the whole roller derby culture. Both have pseudonyms for the rink — ‘Cherry Jamm’ for Skorjanc, ‘Cuff Me Kate’ for Reynolds.

Some roller derby enthusiasts sport tattoos, piercings and other edginess. During Sunday’s training, Skorjanc wore knee highs with lots of colourful designs of skulls over top of her fishnet hose, plus a pair of orange lacy shorts.

“You can have your alter ego,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds enjoys the challenge. She’s learned how to do various manouevres like whips, in which a teammate can reach back to allow their skater behind to grab on to their hand and whip forward.

“There’s a lot of skill involved. . . there are a lot of rules to keep people safe,” said Reynolds.

They’ve had a couple of injuries. Skorjanc sustained a golf-ball sized inflammation on her hip joint after falling due to a hit.

Reynolds suffered a shoulder injury during a group tumble.

Skorjanc emphasized the injury risks are no more than in other sports.

The team started practising in November. Participants must be at least 18.

“When a lot of them started, they didn’t know how to stand up, they didn’t know how to skate,” said coach David Little. “They’re great girls. They listen well, they do whatever they can to learn.”

Plans are to make two additional Red Deer teams, he added.

On Saturday, the Belladonnas played their first home game at Westerner Park. They lost 125-114 to some rookies attending weekend boot camp put on by the Canadian Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association (CWRDA).

The team will practise for a year before becoming part of a provincial league.

Skorjanc said the challenge has been finding practice venues and building a fan base.

Twelve of the more than 25 leagues across Canada came to Red Deer for the weekend training and competition. Close to 150 skaters, coaches and referees attended.

Calgary’s Sarah Hissett, vice-chair of the CWRDA, said the sport is growing among women because it’s something that all can do, no matter their athletic ability or age.

She said a Lacombe team is also being considered.

“The biggest challenge is getting people to know about roller derby,” she said.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com